Saturday, November 13, 2004
democrats are ignorant
Gee... that does not sound like I am trying to build bridges, does it?
But did you notice the lower case "d" in the title?
Well, if you didn't, or if you thought it was a typo, then think about the title again before plowing through my post.
The November 8, 2004 print version of National Review has a piece by Kate O'Beirne titled Don't Know Much About Politics. In her work, she cites several different sources to show that most voters in America don't know diddly about the issues that confront them. It appears that women are less knowledgeable than men (though not less intelligent... there is a big difference!).
According to K.B.: "Political scientists generally regard voter ignorance as rational - given the inability of a single voter to affect the outcome of an election."
Most people only think of the government when it fails them. I am like that when it comes to my municipality. Did they pick up the garbage? Does my water work? Did they fix the pothole on my street? On top of that, I cannot tell you who "they" are, but I do know how to find their phone numbers!
It has not always been this way. When I worked for a local member of the state assembly (and even before that) I knew who the major players were. "Ginger" was not a member of Gilligan's Island nor a spice. She was an influential member of the city council.
So, I would argue that my ignorance is rational to a certain extent. When election time rolls around for local or state elections, I usually perk up and do some research. On rare occasions, usually dealing with positions on the bench at lower levels, do I not cast a vote. I'd rather skip a position than vote for one person out of ignorance or based on hearsay.
That being said, I am probably in the top 10 percent of voters in the country when it comes to being informed.
Now that is a scary thought whether or not you are liberal or conservative because my guess is that most of you who bother to read blogs like this (as I do) are no better than me. If you are much better than me, then you are in the top five percent of voters in the country.
So what does that say about people as particpants in democracy in any country who are like the rest of us in that they are worried about the day-to-day affairs that affect them while the "big picture" seems irrelevant?
What does it mean to be well-informed in any democracy? I would love to see several comments to my post on my website, but I would be happy with e-mail like I have received in the past.
NOW, apply all of that to the Middle East in all countries while deciding on your vote last week...
Even with my reduced knowledge of politics, I backed George W. Bush last week since many of the areas that were of importance to me and that I had informed myself about were key issues of the presidential election.
I knew that Bush's concept of Iraq as a new beacon of democracy in the Middle East was, to a degree, dangerous. Why? The latest print issue of Foreign Policy provides information that any of us who have taught the subject know: many Middle Eastern countries are run by authoritarians who are not that religious even though they pay lip-service to some version of Islam (usually the Sunni version); and, the United States deals with them as "allies."
Why (again)? The cold war and the need for oil come to mind. Authoritarian stability appeals over anarchy and totalitarianism unless the former is a threat to the rest of the region.
But, I hope (and, to a degree, think) Bush is right in the long run. I may be less of a practical actor than Hugh Hewitt, but I do realize that not all movements towards democracy will take the same path. Even though the United States is the beacon of democracy in the world, its past is littered with un-democratic actions. But the conscience and soul embedded in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution have constantly driven the nation towards the expansion of civil rights for all.
Those who expect it to happen quickly anywhere in the world are the true idiots. To vote someone out of office or to resent their presence in office because he or she has not brought "peace" overnight is to be truly ignorant.
And most people around the world are ignorant no matter how free they might be.
edited at 8:10 p.m.